5 @ 5: Taxes & Prisons

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 30, 2012 • no responses - be the first

We’re so worried about the Zombie Apocalypse that we’ve seemed to forget the robot uprising that’s coming soon:

People are paying less taxes then they were in 1980, but no one seems to think so:

It costs a lot of money to lock people up. The prison industrial complex has many state budgets in shambles:

Obama’s playing hardball, and it’s sounding good to me so far. I’m very curious about that 400 billion “trim” to entitlements though:

Are dinner parties dying? Say it ain’t so. Maybe I’ll figure out how to bring it back…

 

 

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Mammograms Don’t Save Lives*, Long Live Mammograms!

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 30, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Mammograms, it seems, are sort of a fraud:

…numerous trials of mammography have indeed randomly assigned nearly 600,000 women to undergo either regular mammography screening or no screening. The results of more than a decade of follow-up on such studies, published more than 10 years ago, show that women in the mammogram group were just as likely to die as women in the no-mammogram group. The women having mammograms were, however, more likely to be treated for cancer and have surgeries like a mastectomy. (Some of the studies include trials from Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and this major reviewof the data.)

In other words, mammograms increased diagnoses and surgeries, but didn’t save lives—exactly what the researchers behind last week’s observational study concluded.

I say sort of because they do save a few lives:

…there is a fraction of cancers that are deadly but, when found at just the right moment, can have their courses changed by treatment. Women with these cancers are helped by mammograms. Clinical trial data suggests that 1 woman per 1,000 healthy women screened over 10 years falls into this category, although experts say that number is probably even smaller today because of advances in breast cancer treatments.

So that means, at best .001 of women screened are specifically helped by a mammogram. Case closed, right? Wrong. The reason I say long live mammograms is because of Black women:

Black women had a lower incidence rate (116.9 cases per 100,000) compared with white women (122.1) but a higher percentage of cancers diagnosed at regional or distant stage (45% versus 35%) . In addition, black women had a 41% higher rate of breast cancer mortality (31.6 deaths per 100,000) during 2005–2009 than did white women (22.4 deaths per 100,000).

I can’t dismiss mammograms all together when I know that the women in my community die at a 41% higher rate than whites. I have to consider the amount of Black women who can be saved by a mammogram. Obviously, the ladies of melanin are far fewer than their paler counterparts in America, but that number gives me great pause…forty-one percent. The biggest reason that keeps me from dismissing mammograms altogether is the lack of an alternative. In neither article that I quote above does the author or anyone quoted propose an alternative to screening. Hopefully something new, and life-saving will show up on the horizon soon, so we can end all this spending (5 billion), but for now it could be the difference for far too many Black women for me to kick it to the curb.

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The Big Story: Taxes

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 30, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Ms. Thole, like many in Belleville, is also convinced that governments could avoid raising taxes by adopting more frugal habits.

“There’s some days we stay home and we eat peanut butter,” she said.

What would she like governments to cut?

“I really like it when they cut the weeds along the highway,” she said. “I like it when there’s good roads to drive on. The schools, I don’t know, I don’t want to pull back from the schools. I don’t have the answer of where to pull back.

“I want the state parks to stay open. I want, I want, I want. I want Big Bird. I think it’s beautiful. What don’t I want? I don’t know.”

The above is a perfect example of how many people view taxes in America. They believe that government is spending too much. On what? They don’t know, but they’re sure it’s something. A bunch of things even. Just not any of the things that they like or want or need. People who drive think we spend too much on public transit, people who take public transit think we spend too much on roads (we do, but I digress). Frequently, people think too little money is being on spent on them. “Where’s all this money going?” they say to themselves. The answer is, everywhere. Our local, state, and federal governments do much more than most people comprehend, and it costs much more than they think. Would Ms. Thole want more holistic, and sensible crime policy if she knew that corrections is the 2nd largest state expenditure after Medicaid?:

one out of every 15 state dollars is spent on corrections in this country. Not coincidentally, one in 31 American adults are adrift in this bloated corrections matrix, stretching resources razor thin. Now swing the recession sledgehammer, and you have a nationwide crisis requiring states to come up with creative solutions to meet enormous budget deficits.

There’s something we could cut. Because you know, drug addicts should get treatment not go to jail. Especially when treatment is a far cheaper option (PDF):

…the average cost of placing a participant in DTAP, including the costs of residential treatment, vocational training an support services was $32,974—half the average cost of $64,338 if the participant had been sent to serve the average term of imprisonment for participants, 25 months.

Sometimes my mind is boggled by this stuff, just about everyone wants more services, but many don’t expect to pay more for those services. Nowhere else do you find that attitude except when it comes to the government. No one would walk into a spa for a massage, and then expect to a facial as well for the same price, but everyone wants better schools, and lower property taxes.

Then we have the people who think poor folks are ballin’ out:

Mr. Siemens does have a concern about fairness. He believes that lower-income households are not paying enough in taxes.

“By any measure, the wealthy are still paying a disproportionate amount of their income in taxes,” he said. “Is that fair or not fair? I don’t know, but I have an issue with the dramatic reduction of taxes at the low end because I think everybody needs some skin in the game.”

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The share of Americans who think lower-income households pay too little in taxes increased to 24 percent in 2012 from 8 percent in 1992, according to Gallup.

What a “skin in the game” is going to make poor people do, I don’t know. But clearly those poor people have it good so to make things more “fair”, they should pay more. Because, “some skin” will make you do stuff (*wink*) or something. Meanwhile, Mr. Siemens’ state doesn’t have a progressive tax rate. Which means that the poor are more than paying their fair share in state taxes:

…Illinois, like most states, takes a larger share of income from those who make less. Illinois households earning less than $25,000 a year on average paid 14.3 percent of income in state and local taxes in 2010, while those earning more than $200,000 paid 9.4 percent

We have a couple of people in this article who represent a powerful sentiment across large swaths of America: The idea that rich people work harder than less well off folks, and that’s why they’re rich. Now hard work is 9/10 a prerequisite for wealth, but I’d say it’s a prerequisite for poverty as well. Growing up, I knew many, many people who lived below the federal poverty line (which @ 23 grand for a family of 4 is extremely low). None of them were headed by people who didn’t work. The working poor exist, and education seems like the key to higher wages, and ability to lift oneself out of poverty. Meanwhile California is spending almost a year of room & board at Harvard on incarcerating people for the same length of time. All the while cutting back on their own awesome public colleges & universities. This is perverse. This is a America. Where we lock up drug users, and states like S.C. increase prison spending by %500 only to see recidivism rates increase.But I guess things will get better by admiring the rich, and making poor people pay more.

 

 

 

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Train People For The Jobs You Have, Not The Jobs You Might Want

by TKOEd • Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Who’s Hiring?:

“You can make six figures as an auto technician” says Rich Orbain, the manager of General Motors Auto Service Education Program. “If that person has the motivation and skill and the drive, they can do it” he says, adding that despite long-standing programs at 61 community colleges across the country, General Motors (GM) is currently only getting about 500 of the 2500 trained new technicians it needs each year.

Stuff like this should be a slam dunk for politicians. Where’s the legislative bill to creat more for programs of this nature? Where’s Obama’s PR push to get people into the jobs that are available today? Now 2000 jobs isn’t many, but that’s just at GM:

Data from the Department of Labor project that the need will be above average for auto service technicians in the coming years, and that the auto industry is going to need to find, train and hire more than 100,000 new people who can get under the hood and keep our cars and trucks running smoothly.

Not everyone wants a job as an auto tech, but there are plenty of people who would jump at the chance given the still sorry state of the economy. Even during good times lots of people need work, and more specifically need to gain the skills to get these jobs. We hear a lot about “job training programs”, but here we have programs that still aren’t meeting the demand companies need. Why? It’s not as if CEOs don’t have the ears of politicians. Pols need to ask the right questions. When Obama meets with the “titans of industry”, he should ask them where the jobs are. John Boehner & Mitch McConnell should do same. Find out where the jobs are & train people for those jobs. Give people specific tax breaks to help them move for a new job. Make it easier to get the breaks that are already on the books.

GM not being able to fill all their auto tech positions is an abject failure on the part of our government during a recession. Now the Republicans haven’t wanted the economy to get better for fear that Obama would get the credit, but I expect more from Democrats. This is the kind of stuff GOPers could possibly support.

People needs jobs, and there are some specific companies that need employees, and need them now. It’s the government’s job to get the 2 sides together.

 

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Costco, Wall Street & Sacrifice

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012 • one response - join in

“How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart”:

…not everyone is happy with Costco’s business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco’s customers but to its workers as well.

Costco’s average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam’s Club. And Costco’s health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco “it’s better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.”

God forbid there’s a large company that actually seems to be taking care of its employees. God forbid there’s a company who isn’t squeezing every last bit of life, and productivity out of its employees just so shareholders can make few more bucks. Who are these shareholders? Michael Lind has the answer:

Most publicly traded companies have shares that are bought and sold constantly on behalf of millions of passive investors by mutual funds and other intermediates. Some shareholders invest in a company for the long term; many others allow their shares to be bought and sold quickly by computer software programs. Unable to identify what particular shareholders want, CEOs with the encouragement of Wall Street have treated short-term earnings as a reliable proxy for shareholder value.

That last line is an important one. It’s exactly why Wall Street analyst, Emme Kozloff, thinks Costco CEO, Jim Sinegal:

“…has been too benevolent,”…”He’s right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden.

Yes. That’s exactly what we need more of in this country, service industry workers picking up more of the burden for companies with billions in revenue. Why? The shareholders. Who could possibly be more important?

You might wonder I’m writing focusing on an article from 2005. I really wanted to highlight the kind of sacrifice that many on Wall Street (and their sycophants in the Senate & House) support. In their eyes, working people need to give up things, gifts the right-wing might call them. Meanwhile, rich people? They don’t have to give up shit. In fact if we don’t give them more shit, they won’t work. They won’t be the “makers” or “job creators” that they are so adamantly convinced they are. Right. If you believe that, I’ve got some pre-election polling that proves Mitt Romney should have won. These people won’t stop “working.” They are the walking, talking epitome of C.R.E.A.M. That picture of Mitt Romney & his boys at Bain with money everywhere? An outtake from that Wu-Tang video. They live to make money, and if some working stiff has to make a few less bucks or have shitty or no insurance so that people like Mitt Romney can make a few more bucks so be it. That’s America, that’s capitalism. Specifically that’s shareholder capitalism as Michael Lind put it. If they really stop working, trust me when I say it’s not big loss, they’re probably too stupid to be in business anyway.

CEOs need to make sure their employees get crumbs, and nothing more. Sometimes even crumbs are just too good for them. The CEOs themselves? They should get the whole slice of bread. Unless they don’t want the crust, that they can feed to the dogs strapped to the roof of their cars. This is the world according to Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner & Wall Street “analysts.” They cry, and moan about having to pay a few percentage points more of marginal income tax, but they support sacrifice from everyone else. Fuck that. Yes they will whine heavily about the tax increase, but then they’ll remember they’re rich & get over it. They’ll go back to making up more nonsensical ways to make money. Some other way to scam a whole bunch of people, and then scurry away with a nice severance package before any realizes the great damage that’s been done.

Jim Sinegal said he was trying to have a sustainable company that will be around for many decades to come, but the “Street” doesn’t want to hear that:

On Wall Street, they’re in the business of making money between now and next Thursday,” he said. “I don’t say that with any bitterness, but we can’t take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now.”

Bingo. I could not agree more. These people don’t do “in 10 years.” They can barely think past the next financial quarter. Meanwhile shareholder capitalism isn’t great at its main purpose. Again, Michael Lind:

Shareholder value capitalism in the U.S. since the 1980s has even failed in its primary purpose — maximizing the growth in shareholder value. As Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto points out in a recent Harvard Business Review article, between 1933 and 1976 shareholders of American companies earned higher returns — 7.6 percent — than they have done in the age of shareholder value from 1977 to 2008 — 5.9 percent a year.

Even that scumbag, Jack Welch thinks it’s stupid:

For his part, Jack Welch has renounced the idea with which he was long associated. In a March 2009 interview with the Financial Times, the former head of GE said: “Strictly speaking, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world.”

So why do persist with this “stupid” idea? Greed. That, and the idea that’s seems to be pervasive among many right-wingers: If you’re not rich, it’s because you don’t deserve to be. Something is wrong with you. Not the way we do thing here, in America. But it’s you, your own fault, and society has had no hand in that. It’s one of the reason they hate Obama, he doesn’t subscribe to that world view. He thinks we’re all in this together. He thinks Americans should look out for one another. Especially those who are the worst off & the able to do it for themselves. They don’t like that one bit. Don’t you know that’s socialism? Bailing out the financial industry? Capitalism. Helping the poor, working poor & working class? Socialism. See how that works?

I’m ready for Obama to take the GOP, and all these fat cats (my apologies to actual fat cats) right up to edge the fiscal “cliff“, shove them off & toss a boulder off right after ‘em. Like Wile E. Coyote, they’ll be back, but this will be more than worth it.

 

(All emphasis in this post is mine.)

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The Big Story: David Durk, The NYPD & Corruption

by TKOEd • Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012 • no responses - be the first

R.I.P. David Durk.

Frank Serpico. David Durk. One of those names you almost certainly know. One man was played by someone who now a big time movie star. The other man had a minor character loosely based on him with a different name in the same film. David Durk doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page.

Frank Serpico is alive. David Durk is dead. This is not an obit to Mr. Durk though, the NY Times has done a far better job than I ever could.

We probably never hear of Frank Serpico if not for David Durk. Their stories are intertwined, and you can run a direct line from Serpico/Durk to Adrian Schoolcraft, a man who’s technically still a cop, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he’s been treated. The stories of these three men, all great cops, should serve as an inspiration to all current, and future police officers. Instead the NYPD attempts to push them into the dustbin of history, and tries to minimize their achievements, and their (corroborated) accusations.

The NYPD has a corruption problem. Their PR guy will tell you that things are 10 times better than they were when Serpico was a cop. Does it even matter though? How much of that is through their own efforts, and how much of that is the decline of mob influence in NYC? The NYPD seems so eager to pat itself on the back instead of acknowledging that they have a shit ton of work to do. Abner Louima, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham. You know the names. You know what happened. And I’m telling you that the way the city, and the NYPD handled the findings of the Knapp Commission, which never happens if not for the persistence, and the insistence of Serpico & Durk, is why we have today’s NYPD. A police force of quotas, harassment, and racism.

…the fallout was minimal. Dozens of officers were prosecuted, but no senior police or city officials were charged.

A few people were cast out, and they called it a day. Ray Kelly was a police officer during those days. I wonder if he’s ever been asked about that era. Was he on the take? He sure does like to minimize police misconduct. How can we expect the NYPD to do their job in a fair, honest, and transparent way when they’ve never tackled the ghosts of the 60s & 70s? How many corrupt cops went on to become senior officers? How many are in the top brass today? We’ll probably never know. What we do know that is that the “blue wall” is as strong as ever. Adrian Schoolcraft’s apt was invaded by cops, and he was tossed in a mental ward by those same cops. Unlawful imprisonment anyone? Of course we’ve seen no criminal charges against any of the officers involved in these Gestapo tactics. I now feel vindicated every time I cross the street to avoid walking next to or crossing paths with a cop. If they can do this shit to another cop bet money they can, and HAVE done it a civilian.

I’ve always said that the police should be held to a higher standard than the average person, but this country seems to completely disagree with me. All over America cops are held to lower standards. Shoot a Black man in the back while he’s face down being handcuffed by another cop? Say you were scared, and you were reaching for your, far lighter, Taser. No one will even ask why you were reaching for your Taser in the 1st place. After the judge gives you double credit for time served you’ll end up serving a year in prison total. Now try, and imagine an average white man who’s not a police officer using any or all of that as an excuse. Now do it for the average Black man. I can’t see either of them getting just a year. Add some “fear”, and make ‘em both cops & it’s likely that they’re acquitted, and continue to be police officers.

All a cop has to do is say they were scared, and they’ll have people lining up to defend them. “You don’t know what it’s like to be a cop.” “Their job is dangerous.” There are around 800,000 law enforcement officers in the U.S. (including state & federal officers). In 2010 160 of them were murdered. That’s a rate of .0002. In 2005 about 57,600 cops were assaulted. A rate of .072. Out of that number, about 15,800 were injured. A rate of .0197. My intent is not to minimize police shootings, and assaults, but show that this fear that cops regularly invoke, usually after they’ve shot another unarmed person, is unsubstantiated by the stats. Most cops probably don’t know another officer who’s even been assaulted let alone killed. So what are they so afraid of? The answer seems to be be Black & Latino men. Since we’re the ones that usually end up on the wrong end of a cops glock.

Despite all the talk about “community policing” Ray Kelly has been very confrontational when confronted with just about any criticism of the NYPD. This unwillingness to criticize the self is at the heart the NYPD’s problems, especially with regard to Blacks, and Latinos. When it comes to unwarranted defensiveness, only self-aggrandizing millionaires, and billionaires are in competition. 16 officers get arraigned for ticket fixing, 100s show up in protest. It’s someone else’s fault. They were “just following orders.” Guess what? I believe them. I believe they were just following orders when they stopped, and frisked 685,724 people (87% of them Black & Latino) last year. I also believe that they were just following orders when they stop and frisked 25% less people in the 2nd quarter of this year than last. This brings me back to Ray Kelly, and other cops who were “on the job” during the years the NYPD was nearly completely overrun by corruption. Where are many of these men now? David Durk said during a formal lecture at the police academy he was told to always carry a SASE with him in case he got a bribe. That way he could immediately mail it to himself without fear it would be found later. This is what they were telling recruits! But I’m supposed to believe that the overwhelming majority of corrupt cops who never got any  disciplinary action just suddenly became good cops? Maybe for a little while, ’til the cameras & the reporters & investigators went away, but not for long. Until society stops treating cops as above the law, and infallible we will continue to see corruption, racism & violence flowing from the NYPD.

In 1970 Frank Serpico said:

the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers.

That’s still the case. Just like in the 60′s, and 70′s today’s cops are “just following orders.”

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Quote Of The Day: Rush Limbaugh

by TKOEd • Friday, Nov 9, 2012 • no responses - be the first

Via:

Let me take you back to the Republican convention. We had Suzanne Martinez, female Hispanic governor, New Mexico. We had Condoleezza Rice, African-American, former secretary of state.  Both of those people imminently qualified, terrifically achieved… We had Marco Rubio. We had a parade of minorities who have become successful Americans… Now, why didn’t that work, folks? 

I am going to leave that right there for you. Let your big beautiful brain stew on that for a little bit.

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Quote Of The Day: Ross Douthat

by TKOEd • Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012 • no responses - be the first

…getting there requires that conservatives face reality: The age of Reagan is officially over, and the Obama majority is the only majority we have.

Douthat saysthat there has been a major realignment in this country, and it favors the Democrats. One of the problems with his analysis is that he still doesn’t seem to grasp that there is a major demographic shift happening in this country. He alludes to it, and says what lots of folks have said: the GOP needs to wake up, and smell the shitstorm brewing. But like many other observers he misses that for the GOP to embrace this changing demography they have to become a very different party then they are today. A Republican party that is able to win nationally in 10 years will not be one that looks very much like the GOP of today. Not from a diversity standpoint, not from a  rhetorical standpoint, and most of not from a policy standpoint.

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5 @ 5: Hurricane Sandy & Haiti

by TKOEd • Monday, Nov 5, 2012 • no responses - be the first

My country continues to get the extreme short end of the “natural” disaster stick:

Junot Diaz + Tumblr =

Finally, we have a prominent Republican willing to admit that “voter fraud” is GOP bullshit:

Apropos of what I was talking about the other day:

The military isn’t infallible. Soldiers know this. Why won’t most politicians or media say so?:

 

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Quote Of The Day: Dwight D. Eisenhower

by TKOEd • Monday, Nov 5, 2012 • no responses - be the first

 “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed…The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

Eisenhower was discussing what he described as the Military-Industrial Complex. As Aaron B. O’Connell told us yesterday in an op-ed in the NY Times, Eisenhower is responsible for popularizing that phrase. Can we imagine a president or serious candidate for president making a statement like that today? Can you imagine a Republican doing it? Yet Eisenhower was both of those things. The GOP has moved so far right from what they once were it’s absolutely mind-boggling. Not only that, our country has moved decidedly to the right. Now that has been helped along by decades of GOP falsehoods, chicanery & outright lies. The media has been aiding, and abetting the GOP bullshit for much of the last 30 years as well. It’s good to remember that we were once a country where presidents could talk about people coming 1st, and where push-back against military spending wasn’t viewed as fringe politics. If we’re willing to the work, we can have a country like that again.

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